PrAACtical Supports for the Young AAC Learner: Recipes for Success, Part 3
Looking for resources so you can help families get comfortable with implementing AAC at home? SLP Sara Barnhill has you covered! In the third installment of the PrAACtical Supports for the Young AAC Learner, she generously shares some parent handouts created along with her colleagues at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR). As a member of the Assistive Technology (AT) Core team, she is involved in AAC evaluations and therapy in the hospital’s clinics, out-patient program and Transitional Care Unit. CHoR’s AT Program is one of few comprehensive AT programs in Central Virginia. The program provides AT evaluations, equipment and training to people of all ages, enabling children and adults with disabilities to function more independently. CHoR’s AT team consists of four SLPs, two OTs, one PT, and one Therapy Practice Assistant. In addition to completing transdiciplinary evaluations and treatments, CHoR’s AT team is responsible for supporting staff and sharing AT information to five CHoR therapy centers throughout Central Virginia.
In previous posts, Sara shared handouts for animal puzzles, Potato Head, crayons, and paint dotters. In this post, we look at ways to build core vocabulary skills through play with bubbles and toy cars. Don’t miss the link to download the parent handouts that were created by this dynamic team. You’ll love the engaging and prAACtical suggestions that Sara and her colleagues provide.
Let’s Play with Core! Recipes for Success
Abandonment of AAC systems is a recognized problem in the field of AT. Therapists, teachers, and caregivers alike often feel uncomfortable and intimidated by AAC. We can all acknowledge that “it takes a village,” but appropriately supporting “AAC villagers” at a level that facilitates both device use for the AAC user and increases comfort for the caregiver is often easier said than done. Children’s Hospital of Richmond’s AT Core Team has created several programmatic solutions in order to provide specific training and improve device use.
Our team of four SLPs and two OTs is responsible for completing six to eight AAC evaluations per week and then follow-up training for devices upon their receipt. In follow-up appointments, we found ourselves doing a lot of modeling and talking to caregivers who responded largely with glazed expressions. We were inundating families with information without providing any tangible supports for them to take home and apply. Understandably, carryover to home was not the best. We realized that we needed to provide scaffolded support to caregivers in the same way that we did for AAC users.
Our team worked to create supports that address a variety of learning styles for both staff and caregivers. We identified features for caregiver training such as: structured stair steps with AAC; easy to model and facilitate generalization; increased ability to report information and answer questions regarding home use of AAC.
The “Recipes for Success” program provides activity specific sheets for common toys/activities with corresponding vocabulary for a variety of language acts. These recipes also provide step-by-step scripts for device implementation into familiar activities and suggestions for generalization of vocabulary and skills after clinicians become more comfortable and confident with AAC use. Our hospital also received a Children’s Miracle Network Mini-Grant for provision of common toys to families with limited means (Potato Head, books, puzzles, etc.) that accompany the Recipes. Providing materials allows caregivers to observe and participate in device use with said toy in therapy in order to feel more comfortable carrying over device use with the same toy in their home environment. While the CMN Mini-Grant has been very helpful in our facility, this program does not require that the materials be provided. The toys and activities we selected are common and many families already have them at home.
Since our team “epiphany” regarding the changes needed to our methods of staff and caregiver training, our team has radically shifted our approach to education and support in order to give voices to our patients. We have had great feedback from caregivers and staff and are excited to share resources with the PrAACtical AAC community! We’ve been sharing recipes for a variety of fun summer toys, starting with animal puzzles and Potato Head, which were published last week, and art activities in today’s post.
Here’s the link to get a copy of these parent handouts shown above (cars and bubbles). You can download the first two sets of Recipes for Success parent handouts here and here. Come back again next week for the final installment of these preschool play handouts, and learn about what else Sara and the AT Team at CHoR have in store for us.
This post was written by Carole Zangari